How Electrical Stimulation Can Increase Strength, Range Of Motion, and More

The world of modern medicine has seen rapid growth over the last few decades. From developments in the operating room to the way we battle viruses, advances in technology have helped us discover new methods of recovery. Electrical muscle stimulation is one of many of these advancements and has shown promising results. If you have ever visited a physical therapist for soft tissue rehabilitation, you may have encountered a form of neuromuscular electrical stimulation or NMES. Whether you are recovering from a stroke, injury, or chronic pain, you may benefit from electrical muscle stimulation therapy. This practice is painless and has helped many people recover from injury at an accelerated rate. Electrical stimulation therapy helps by relieving pain, increasing strength, improving range of motion, and more. Here is everything you need to know about electrical stimulation, what it is, and how it can help you. 

What is Electrical Stimulation Therapy?

Electrical stimulation therapy, also known as E-stem or NMES, is a tool that utilizes electrical stimulation to a muscle or muscle group to cause a contraction. This process involves sending an electrical signal to either your muscles or nerves to ‘stimulate’ them. This stimulation results in the contraction of a muscle or the manipulation of a nerve ending. The electrical signals used in NMES mimic the action of signals coming from your nervous system. EMS  therapy sends these signals to your muscles, causing them to contract. Through repeated contractions, blood begins to flow to that area, helping repair damaged muscles and tissue. During electrical stimulation therapy, a therapist will secure one more electrode pad to your skin. Once the electrodes are plugged in and ready to go, your therapist will begin the electric pulses that will stimulate your muscle contractions. Each device has a variety of settings that can all be adjusted to fit the comfort of the patient. Though receiving electrical pulses may sound extremely uncomfortable, you may barely notice involuntary muscle contractions, let alone the electrodes. 

What is the Purpose of Electrical Stimulation Therapy?

The main purpose of electrical stimulation therapy is to recreate what occurs in the body as you repeatedly contract and release a muscle. By causing repeated contractions, blood flows into the afflicted area. This process repairs tissues as well as atrophied, shortened, or weakened muscles. The repetition of muscle contractions works the same way as it does in the gym. After some time and some repetition, the muscles will begin to grow and strengthen, further providing support for the injured area. 

Increased Range of Motion

One of the many benefits of electrical stimulation therapy is an increase in your range of motion. The electrical signals that are sent through the electrodes stimulate nerve receptors in the muscles and can interrupt pain signals sent from the brain to the body. NMES also triggers the release of endorphins and other natural painkillers. This increase in endorphins combined with the blood flow can help alleviate patients from pain and swelling. The electrical stimulation that focuses on pain relief sends a specific wavelength that reaches the nerves without contracting muscles. As this process begins to take effect, patients will be able to move more freely and experience an improvement in their range of motion. 

Increase Strength

Electrical muscle stimulation causes the body to repeatedly contract the same muscle group for an extended period. These contractions are the same type of contractions that are performed when exercising in the gym. Often our injuries stem from a lack of support for a part of our body. Often the area that needs strengthening can be injured or challenging to exercise on its own. By using electrical stimulation therapy, patients can exercise very small or specific regions of their body through repeated motion, just like a regular workout. Eventually, these muscle groups will gain enough strength to support the weight of the body and to be able to grow on their own, without the help of electrical stimulants. 

What Else Does NMES Help With?

1. Relieving back spasms-  Electrical muscle therapy can relax back muscles, and ease tightness. This can relieve soreness in the lower back area. Sciatica symptoms can be caused by spasms in the lower back. NMES can help stop these spasms from occurring and relieve the pressure that may be building on the sciatic nerve. NMES can also help with soreness from other back issues like scoliosis. 

2. Retraining muscle after an injury- after major surgeries or a stroke, patients can have a hard time contracting muscles at will. In these circumstances, E-stim can be used to reteach the muscles and how to contract. If the patient focuses on voluntarily moving their muscles as they are stimulated, the brain can relearn how to do so without much aid. 

3. Aiding in athletic recovery- Athletes can be quite injury prone. Thankfully through electrical stimulation therapy, a more active approach can be taken when dealing with athletic injuries. Using low-level settings, electrical stimulation can increase blood flow, remove lactic acid, relax muscles, and release endorphins. Athletes that are prone to cramps and spasms may find these programs beneficial. 

What to Expect During Electrical Stimulation Therapy

The thought of receiving electrical stimulation can sound intimidating, but there is nothing to worry about. Here is what you can expect in a typical E-stem therapy session;

1. Electrodes are placed around the injured area

2. The current will begin low and gradually increase until it is at the appropriate level

3. You might feel a tingly sensation around the electrodes

4. Depending on the type of stimulation you might feel muscles contracting as they receive stimulation

5. A typical session will last about 5-15 minutes long

Find Professional Physical Therapy with Theradynamcis!

If you are suffering from an injury, don’t wait to see a professional. Electrical stimulation therapy might not be for everyone, but this pain-free procedure has accelerated recovery and provided pain relief for many. At Theradynamics, our team of healthcare professionals is ready to help you recuperate as quickly as possible. We offer a variety of therapeutic services for those in need. Our team of licensed professionals is equipped with the latest tools and techniques to reduce recovery time and maximize long-term health. If you would like to know more about our physical therapy services, or how you can schedule an appointment, visit us at one of our physical therapy clinics in Queens, New Jersey, or Manhattan NYC.